The police officers who keep Baltimore safe (and who also occasionally get in trouble for things like falling asleep on the job, or shooting unarmed civilians) don’t necessarily have a reputation for being tactful and empathetic. But if the BPD’s newest training regimen really does what it says it will, you can expect a whole lot more kindness from police officers around town.
Recently, BPD sergeants and lieutenants sat down with victims rights attorney Steve Kelly and Heather Pfeifer, criminologist from the University of Baltimore. The overall message was that empathy isn’t just icing on the cake; building a solid rapport with victims, witnesses, and others can actually help police solve crimes.
Pfiefer told ABC News that her goal is to get jaded officers to look for the unique qualities that help them connect to victims as people: “To have someone say, ‘Yes, I’ve responded to a thousand domestic violence cases and yes there are some similarities to this, but there is a unique element and I want you to share that with me,” she said.
Other police departments have instituted similar trainings; in Seattle, police officers get shot in the face with pepper spray so they can know what it feels like, for example. In Seattle’s police empathy training, officers watch the infamous video of the Baltimore cop assaulting a young skateboarder who called him “dude” as an example of exactly what not to do. Let’s hope this new training will help prevent any incidents like that in the future.
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